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Be Your Own Superhero

Become as ripped as Wolverine, as strong as the Hulk and as nimble as Spider-Man with our superhero-inspired program.

When Logan opens nationwide March 2, it will mark the ninth and reported last time that Hugh Jackman will don the muttonchops and adamantium claws as one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved characters – Wolverine.

Since 2000, Jackman has unveiled a more impressive – and more shredded – physique every time he appeared on-screen as the surliest member of the X-Men. In Logan, the character is older, greyer and clearly not in the same peak condition displayed in 2013’s The ­Wolverine (as seen on this month’s cover) or 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. But the centenarian still looks and fights better than most geriatrics born in the late 1800s.

Off-screen, Jackman’s continued efforts to make strength gains and age gracefully have reminded us of something: you don’t need to be a mutant to gain superabilities. You just have to work as hard as humanly possible and take care of your mind and body.

Admittedly, the workout plan we’re providing won’t turn you into a superhero. However, since it was created by 47-year-old superhuman celebrity trainer Ron Mathews, winner of the Masters 45–49 division at the 2016 CrossFit Games, we’re sure you’ll look, perform and move like one after eight weeks. Even better, exposure to gamma radiation, radioactive spider bites or adamantium-­ skeletal bonding isn’t necessary.

STRENGTH LIKE THE HULK
Mathews’ plan relies on tried-­­and-true powerlifting exercises – like the bench press, squat and deadlift – and more functional, complex movements such as thrusters and power cleans to help you acquire Hulk-like strength. The program benefits your body’s central nervous system (CNS), which increases your body’s ability to recruit muscles for athletic feats, such as leaping from rooftop to rooftop, sprinting after a villain or kicking down a door (see page 12 if you need a refresher).

Snatch-grip deadlift
Remember: most of the power should be generated in the initial pull when your hips are low. If you’re still yanking the bar in the middle of the range of motion, then it’s too heavy. “Keep the chest up and maximise core ­tension,” Mathews adds.

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Bench press
“Make sure that you’re controlling both phases of the movement – the negative and the positive – and don’t bounce the bar off your chest to initiate upward barbell movement,” Mathews says.

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AGILITY LIKE SPIDER-MAN
Mathews included extra volume in the plan so as to induce hypertrophy, while the agility and speed work will improve your coordination and ability to accelerate, and teach your body how to transfer your newfound superstrength into dynamic movements. Essentially it’s combining Spider-Man’s nimbleness with Quicksilver’s speed while offering a blend of the Hulk’s size and Wolverine’s cut physique. In the end, you’ll have acquired new muscle, increased one-rep max and an improved pair of lungs that will take you pretty far in any endeavour you take on – super or not.

Bar muscle-up
These are a little bit easier than muscle-ups on rings (the bar is stable, unlike the rings) but not by a lot. They still require a ton of upper-body strength and power.

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Single-leg shoulder bridge
Keep your grounded foot planted at all times and “drive down into the heel to… maximise the posterior muscle activation and minimise quad activation,” says Mathews. “Use your hands for balance; all of the weight should be in the heel that’s on the floor.”

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SPEED LIKE QUICKSILVER

Kettlebell swing
“Russian swings stop at the eyes and emphasise the hip pop and hamstrings. By using an American swing, you go overhead and not only work the hip pop and hamstrings but also the shoulders,” Mathews says.

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Butterfly sit-up
“The butterfly leg position puts more emphasis on the abs because it doesn’t allow you to use the hip flexors [during the rep],” explains Mathews. “The low-back support pad was made for butterfly sit-ups and enables you to go all the way back.”

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RECOVER LIKE WOLVERINE
Odds are you’ll never be able to take a bullet to the dome and walk away, like Wolverine in 2003’s X2. But some of Logan’s other ultra-recovery abilities can be achieved through careful planning and meal prep.

Look at the big picture
“Pay attention to your overall diet,” notes Ryan Andrews, a strength and conditioning specialist and dietitian. “That includes how much food you’re eating, staying in tune with your hunger cues and following a diet made up of high-quality, minimally processed foods.” In other words, think of your overall recovery efforts as the sum of everything that enters your system pre-, intra- and post-workout.

Time it up
After Wolverine gets through turning sentinels into confetti he enjoys lighting a cigar and downing a brew. Adopt a different plan of attack. “After your workout, your muscles are primed to restore glycogen and protein levels,” says Erica Giovinazzo, a CrossFit coach and nutritionist. “Stick with lean, quick-digesting protein sources, such as a protein shake, chicken breast, egg whites or fish. Give your body 30 to 60 minutes to recover so it can focus on digesting the nutrients.

Go to collagen
The high levels of glycine in collagen protein might help preserve your joints during high-volume training periods. While there’s no recommended dose of glycine – an amino acid that supports collagen, tendon and ligament growth – diet alone most likely won’t provide a sufficient amount since it’s most abundant in the animal parts humans don’t usually eat: tendons, ligaments and bones. Meat, dairy and eggs provide minimal amounts. The collagen in our joints, tendons, ligaments and throughout our body will not optimally repair itself after heavy intense training sessions. What’s more, a study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion concluded that after 24 weeks of supplementing with collagen hydrolysate, participants experienced less activity-related joint pain.

Lean on leucine
This branched-chain amino acid helps to kick-start your muscles’ synthesis response, so you begin the recovery process faster, says fitness expert Dr Brad Schoenfeld “Research has shown that there’s a leucine threshold of about 2 to 3g that’s ideal for spiking a response post-workout,” he says. Foods high in leucine include chicken, soybeans, beef, nuts, seeds, fish and beans.

SURPRISING IMMUNITY BOOSTERS
The Great Outdoors
Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to boost the immune system, according to a University of Illinois, US, meta-analysis of more than 21 studies.
Skipping Meals on Occasion
A 2014 US study found that fasting can protect the immune system from damage while helping it regenerate crucial immune cells.
Social Skills
A 2014 study from Carnegie Mellon University, US, found that social support – like hugs – can reduce the chance of infection by up to 33 percent.

FOCUS LIKE PROFESSOR X
Professor Charles Xavier didn’t become head X-Man because he could deadlift a ton of weight. It was Chuck’s ginormous think muscle and psionic powers that gave him his edge. For those of us not blessed with Professor X’s super abilities, these brain-boosting tips can help you get your mind in top condition:

Chill out
“Meditating everyday for 10-20 minutes has been shown to increase certain areas of your brain, namely the hippocampus – which is where you store your memories – while decreasing the size of your amygdala, the brain’s stress epicentre,” says psychiatrist and neurologist Dr Julia Samton. Additionally, a 2016 Texas Tech University, US, study reported that a meditation modality called Integrative Mind-Body Training can improve your immune function.

Crunch on more kale
Eating vitamin K–rich foods, such as spinach and kale, can slow cognitive decline. A five-year study tracked eating habits of 950 older adults and found that people who ate one to two servings of vegies per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none.

Stop pulling all-nighters
After subjects in a Belgian study stayed awake for 42 hours, scientists used MRI scans to track mental sharpness. As you’d expect, the more sleep-deprived the subjects were, the more their cognitive abilities declined. Above all, researchers stressed that it’s not so much how much you sleep, but how much you’ve been awake that can cause a decline.

Get a hobby
A four-year Mayo Clinic study found that regularly engaging in a hobby, such as playing board games, painting or woodworking, lowered the risk of cognitive impairment in elderly subjects.

Try ginkgo biloba
A study in the journal Human Psychopharmacology found that subjects taking ginkgo extract were better able to recall info than those taking a placebo. However, don’t rely on it to give you a midday energy boost, as results vary on its effectiveness to provide that benefit.